September 2, 2018 5:40:38 PM
ABERDEEN -- Although it was probably the furthest thing from his mind at the time, Amory High School football coach Allen Glenn gave his old coach Bobby Hall as good of a retirement present as possible Friday as his Panthers ended their nine-game losing streak in the annual A-Team game with a 34-26 upset victory against unbeaten Aberdeen.
Hall, who "retired" last week as coach at Philadelphia High after only two games, coached Glenn, who played with Hall's son, Will, currently the associate head football coach and tight ends coach at Memphis, during Hall's second stint with the Panthers in the '90s.
Hall, the second-winningest coach in Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) history (310-106, four state championships, three at Amory -- 1994, 1995, 1998), had a significant impact on Glenn while coaching at Amory.
"Coach Hall was as good a coach as a player could ask for," Glenn said, "and I try to take what he instilled in us and pass it on to my teams."
Apparently Hall's lessons took root because Glenn's squad played four quarters with the same intensity that his former coach's teams played with from 1984-89 and again from 1993-99.
Friday's battle for the A-Team Trophy turned out to be a study in contrast, as 47 of the 60 points hit the scoreboard in the first half, which ended with the Panthers owning a 27-20 advantage.
Aberdeen cut the deficit to 27-26 in the third quarter, but Amory added a touchdown and an extra point with just under six minutes to play to end the Bulldogs' streak in the Monroe County battle.
Trailing 27-26 early in the fourth quarter, Aberdeen drove from its 18-yard-line to the Amory 15, but sophomore defensive back/wide receiver James Spratt made an interception at his 12 and returned it to the 29 to set up Amory's final touchdown.
Aided by a 10-yard holding penalty and a 15-yard unsportsmanlike walk-off against the Bulldogs, sophomore quarterback Hunter Jones guided the Panthers on a 10-play, 71-yard march. Jones hit Trendon Gillon on an 11-yard pass. Bryn Camp's kick gave Amory some breathing room.
Two plays later, Gillon, a senior two-way starter, dashed any hopes the Bulldogs had of tying the game and sending it into overtime with an interception at the Aberdeen 25 that he returned to the 36. But flags flew from every direction on the return, and the Panthers were hit with live- and dead-ball penalties, which gave them possession at their 10 with 4 minutes, 30 seconds remaining.
Despite the poor field position, Chris Satterwhite, the game's leading rusher with 139 yards on 16 carries, had his number called five consecutive plays and he responded with 26 yards to push the ball to the 36. Jones then picked up 11 more yards on two carries and the all-important first down that allowed the Panthers to run the clock out.
"We haven't beaten Aberdeen since 2008. That's nine losses in a row," said Glenn, who has twice been on the losing end as Amory's coach after going 4-0 as a player from 1996-99.
Jones, who was 12-for-15 for 157 yards and three touchdowns, connected on his first five passes on the Panthers' initial possession. The last completion was a 15-yard strike to Gillon. Camp's point after gave Amory a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
After consecutive four-and-outs by both teams, Aberdeen took its only lead (8-7) on a 2-yard touchdown plunge by Brandan Williams on the first play of the second quarter and a two-point pass completion from quarterback Fred Fields to Williams.
Amory regained the lead 40 seconds later when Satterwhite reeled off a 55-yard scamper up the middle to set up K.C. Ivy's 3-yard touchdown plunge. Camp added his second kick to give Amory a 14-8 lead with 48 seconds gone in the second period.
Aberdeen silenced Amory's vocal players and fans when Williams bolted 86 yards untouched with the ensuing kickoff to tie the game at 14, but Gillon deflected Aberdeen's two-point conversion pass.
A short Aberdeen punt set the Panthers up at midfield midway through the second quarter. Amory took a page from Aberdeen's quick-strike philosophy when Jones and Spratt hooked up on a 50-yard double reverse flea-flicker screen pass on first down to break the tie. Glenn then opted to go for the two-point conversion, but his "Dirty Bunch" came up short when Jones was gang-tackled short of the goal.
Forty-five seconds later, it was a 20-20 tie after Fields ripped off an 18-yard run and then connected with Jaquan Jones on a 52-yard touchdown completion. A 15-yard unsportsmanlike walk-off on the two-point try after Jones spiked the ball in the end zone followed by a false start penalty pushed Aberdeen back to the 33. Fields' desperation pass fell incomplete with 5:45 left before half.
Amory shunned its quick-strike offense on its final possession of the first half, as Jones, aided by yet another unsportsmanlike penalty on the Bulldogs, guided the Panthers on an eight-play, 68-yard drive to set up his 5-yard touchdown run up the middle with 41 seconds left. Camp's kick made it 27-20 at halftime.
Big plays in the all-important drive came from Darius Smith on a 14-yard run, Satterwhite on a 20-yard pickup, and Gillon on a 17-yard strike from Jones.
Aberdeen pulled to within a point of knotting the score on its first possession of the third quarter when Williams ran through several tackles for an 11-yard touchdown, but he was stopped short of the goal by Smith after catching a short toss from Fields on the 2-point conversion try.
A time-consuming march by Aberdeen that failed to put points on the scoreboard and Amory's final scoring drive accounted for the final margin and ate up much of the remaining clock.
"Our kids gave a great effort," Glenn said. "We were sloppy in spots, but we created four turnovers and had some explosive plays on offense which sealed the deal."
With the win, Amory can claim a 44-39 advantage in 83rd playing of the rivalry that dates back to at least 1935. In official A-Team Trophy Games that started in 1989, Amory holds a 16-14 advantage.
Before and after the game, several former players and coaches with ties to both sides were asked for their take on the annual clash between Monroe County schools.
Current Amory AD and baseball coach Chad Williams, a two-year starter for the Panthers in 1989 and 1990 who later became an offensive coordinator under Chris Byrd, said anytime Aberdeen and Amory tied up it was going to be a "slobber-knocker."
Ben Ashley got a taste of the rivalry as a coach for both teams, two at Aberdeen and five at Amory, and he lost three-straight games to the Bulldogs as coach from 2013-2015.
"The one thing I liked about this game was that no matter where you coached, it was no problem to get the maximum effort from your players that week," Ashley said.
Derrick Fields, the current assistant to the vice president for Student Services at Mississippi Delta Community College, played in four games against the Panthers and only lost once -- his senior year.
"The thing I remember about the rivalry was this was the one game everyone in Aberdeen wanted to win more than anything," Fields said. "With us, it was win or go home."
Dwight McComb Jr., like Ashley, has had a taste of the rivalry on both sides of the river. He started for his father, Dwight McComb Sr. at Aberdeen and lost three-straight times by a combined score of 108-25. After obtaining his degree, McComb Jr. moved to Amory to start his practice and is now a Panther fan with a son who is a freshman safety.
"I can remember when I played, I stood on the sidelines and hated looking across the field at the Amory sideline," McComb said. "The late Jim Williams (Chad Williams' older brother) caught three touchdown passes on us, and Vincent Brownlee had the other three."
Percy Bell played tailback for the Bulldogs from 1968-1970 and his teams split the series 2-2.
"My fondest memory was scoring three touchdowns in one game against them," said Bell, who went on to play college football.